North Star Series 8 – Glenturret 8 year 58.3%

The last North Star we sampled was from the Highlands – Glenturret to be precise.

I will admit when I selected this bottle, I was hugely influenced by how spectucular the LMdW Artist Glenturret 30 year was! This impression was further re-inforced by a positive experience with a port matured Glenturret 14 year mini.

When I first opened it went – woah!? This was no lucious peach confection. It was peat.  I paused… and then it clicked! I also had this style of Glenturret – better known as Ruadh Mhor – courtesy of a fabulous evening of Chorlton’s whiskies.

In the past, most Glenturret would go into Famous Grouse. You might come across the occasional independent bottles, however in 2018 it was sold to Glenturret Holding – a joint venture between Lalique Group and Swiss entrepreneur Hansjörg Wyss, from 2020 a new range of official bottling are now available.

I went back to filling up our sample bottles to send to Whisky ladies in Europe.

What about the Glenturret Distillery

Glenturret 8 year (Dec 2010 / Mar 2019) Refill Hogshead 58.3% (North Star 008), 1 of 330 bottles. Price Price with shipping/tax £65.49

  • Colour – Golden hay
  • Nose – Well hello peat! Barbecue pringles, salted cashew nuts, cured meats, burnt bacon drizzled in maple syrup, a bit of charcoal wood chips.
  • Palate – Mmmmm maple bacon… baked apples, chocolate… a nice ‘grown up’ complex sweet peat, oily, think caramelized onions and apple sauce with a nice light spice
  • Finish – Long… a subtle smoked bacon tail with a lingering sweetness
  • Water – Initially it seemed to dampen it too much, losing the lovely balance between spice, sweet and peat… however it did add another citrusy element – grapefruit.

While the aromas swirled about with cured smoked meats, the peat was more nuanced on the palate… a kind of civilized rounded peat. Just the kind of maple bacon that is hard to resist!

Talk turned to peat. One of our whisky ladies has a clear peat preference. Whereas I have to admit,  I have veered away from peat of the last few years. Until now. And I realized it is clearly linked to environment. Living in India in perpetual summer is entirely different than a chilly Germany in November! Whereas this kind of sweet smokey dram is perfection on a cold miserable rainy day.

And what does Ian have to say?

  • Nose – Sweet & salted monkey nuts
  • Palate – Fine virginia tobacco
  • Finish – Medicinal, lemon and burnt orange

What else was part of my North Star latest score?

As for other Glenturret experiences? By far the most outstanding was the LMdW, however the Chorlton was also a worthy whisky!

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North Star Series 8 – Auchroisk 13 year 51.2%

Next up in our meander through a few North Stars‘ is a cask strength dram from Auchroisk Distillery.

While we tasted blind, with the reveal, our ex-Diageo lady shared how once upon a time it was bottled as Singleton as it was felt Auchroisk (Oth-rusk) would be too difficult to pronounce. This was back in the mid-1980s which also happened to be an early example of finishing as their approach was to decant a 10 year old ex-Bourbon matured whisky into ex-Sherry casks for a further 2 years, before this became a hallmark technique of Glenmorangie.

Was it successful? As a single malt brand, not entirely. And by 2001, bottling under this label stopped with the name changed back to Auchroisk with release of a ‘Flora & Fauna’ official bottling. Followed later in 2008 with release of “The Singleton of Auchroisk.”

In the meantime, the name Singleton was revived as the Diageo ‘brand’ –  The Singleton – which has three distinctly different avatars (and distilleries) depending on the market –  The Singleton of Glen Ord for Asia (fruity), followed by Glendullan for North America (touted as smooth and approachable), and Dufftown for Europe (nutty marmalade).

Confused much?

Auchroisk 13 year (Feb 2006 / June 2019) Oloroso Sherry Hogshead 51.2% (North Star 008)

  • Nose – Wow! Fresh bubblegum, apples – quite a summery greeting. Flower, all sorts of jams, Victoria sponge cake, strawberries and cream, pavlova, marshmallows, cantaloupe… shifting into a touch of port or prunes or something in the darker sherry aromas, perhaps even a hint of sweet tobacco leaf? As it continued to open, just became more and more fabulous in the shifting range of fruity baked deserts with a touch of sweet spices
  • Palate – What a contrast! We hadn’t expected such character – spice, licorice, cheese rinds greeted us with the first sip. By the 2nd sip, the sherry influence was clear. Lots of blackberries, strawberries. Creamy, coating the palate.
  • Finish – Relatively short but satisfying.
  • Water – Definitely has an impact. On the aromas, adding water brought back the floral quality, added mandarin oranges. On the palate it was initially spicier – a lot spicier – with cinnamon, allspice. As it settled down, we thought of old fashioned Christmas oranges with cloves, with a nice dollop of vanilla infused cream!

Overall we were impressed. There was a pleasant complexity to this one.

We returned after sampling the peaty Glenturret 8 year… Sometimes having a sherry dram follow peat, can lead to disappointment. Absolutely not in this case! If anything, we appreciated this Auchroisk even more.

  • Revisit – Gorgeous! Vanilla, tobacco, sweet liquorice, lovely christmasy character without being too intensely sherry. Also had a nice nuttiness. And sipping? Simply delicious. In short – Yum! A delightful dessert-y whisky.

No doubt – we thoroughly enjoyed this dram! And would be interested in exploring more…

This Auchroisk was matured in a Oloroso sherry hogshead which produced 280 bottles. I paid approx GBP 67, ordered directly from the fabulous folks at North Star Spirits.

As for Iain Croucher‘s tasting notes? Here is what he had to say about this Auchroisk:

  • Nose – An oil-burning Rayburn baking an orange sponge pudding
  • Palate – Orangeade Spangles & freshly plundered brambles
  • Finish – Nutty caramel with a plum & vanilla compote

We admit, we had to look up “spangles” to discover they are a British sweet. Just like an oil-burning Rayburn! Once we had a better sense of the references, would agree!

What else was part of my North Star latest score?

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North Star Regions – Speyside 12 year 50%

North Star has a Millennial Series with whiskies from Scotland’s four main regions – Highland, Speyside, Islay and Island. I started with the Highland and have now cracked open the Speyside! Alas I haven’t been able to get my hands on either the Islay nor the Island, so this will conclude my exploration of this series.

The distillery isn’t directly stated, but the longitude and latitude provided on the bottle brings one to Aberlour distillery in X (N 57° 26’36.14″ by W 3° 14’17.04′). When I think of Aberlour, what comes to mind is a robust sherry bomb – particularly A’bunadh which was once upon a time regular duty free cask strength purchase.

So what about this one? Well… it was sampled over a few sessions – including with our Whisky Ladies of Europe!

The Speyside 12 year 50%

  • Colour – Dark copper
  • Nose – Rich, fruity with apricots, pineapple, heavy with honey or maple syrup, rum raisins, as it opened up some dark bitter chocolate (think 95%), more raisins which were joined by nuts – particularly walnut, dried figs, some cherries…
  • Palate – Very tasty! Pepper, sweet spices of cinnamon and cloves, dark berries, more of that apricot, perhaps a bit of melon? Nice creamy butter that coats the palate with oils, buttered toast
  • Finish – Quite long. There was an almost coffee-like quality or betel nut? A bit bitter, with some chilly spice.
  • Water – Dampens the aromas… however nuts became slightly more pronounced. Less spice, more sweetness, betel leaf and melons. In some cases adding water transforms a dram. In this case? It neither added dramatically nor detracted.

Overall it lived up to its promise of being a proper sherry dram – though not as overwhelming as some cask strength A’bunadh’s I’ve experienced! What was remarkable was the consistency – from 1st whiff to finish – it followed a common theme. I had jotted down a few notes from an earlier solo tasting months ago… to then see notes from the tasting with the ladies was practically identical!

The only shift was after we set it aside and returned after an hour. We immediately found it a bit sour or tart – crabapples with a bit of medicinal sweetness, orange peels and cloves. And yet – even this was all aligned to the overall character of the dram.

Rather than tasting notes, the North Star team share the following quote from Aedan Andrejus Burt:

Speyside is often considered Scotland’s sweetest and most approachable region. Wherever you go, they’ll introduce you to a dram, and probably something the locals call a ‘breakfast whisky’ soon enough. Home to around 50 distilleries, over a third of Scotland’s total, the area covers a 50-mile strip between Inverses and Aberdeen, around the River Spey. For that, most distilleries have their own water source, of which they are immensely proud. The honeyed and fruity character of Speyside whiskies make them highly sought after, and the banks of the Spey accommodate many of the country’s best known stills.

I purchased this bottle in May 2020 during our COVID ‘shut-in’ from Sansibar for EUR 37.82 plus 19% tax. There is zero doubt this is a value for money dram!

Curious about earlier Aberlour tasting experiences? Well… there have been a few…

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North Star European Chapter – Royal Brackla, Fettercairn, Ichgower

Twas the night before Diwali… also Friday the 13th November… and as dusk fell in Europe, we cracked open a trio of North Star drams.

Our bottles had traversed quite some distance before we could sip together!  Originally from Scotland, they first made their way to me in Nurnberg, Germany… Then re-packaged into small samples, the whiskies continued their journey to Paris, Bretagne and rural Sweden… For one, it was then back to the UK – London to be more precise. For another, it was an even further adventure, flying to Mumbai for quarantine consumption.

So what did we try virtually together?

I had previously sampled all three, but was curious to see how they evolved and the impressions of my merry malty tasting companions!

Royal Brackla 11 year (2018) 55.2%

I will openly admit to being partial about this one! And wasn’t surprised when it was pronounced a ‘yummy’ whisky.

  • Nose – Apples, pears, all those lovely orchard fruits which shifted into spiced pineapple, toffee, nuts, then candied apple, cider, a herbal grassy quality, brioche
  • Palate – Again – quite tasty. A nice spice – think chilli chocolate, some salty caramel
  • Finish – Long and pleasant, a hint of anise

There was a debate on whether to add water or not… those who did were rewarded with maple syrup aromas with the palate rounding out with oils coming forward. The herbal quality took on a vegetal dimension – one mentioned brussle sprouts!

Without water, with water and even after airing for some time, what we appreciated most is how the base notes remained consistent. An enjoyable dram and terrific start to our evening.

Fettercairn 12 year (2019) 57.4% 

Quite a contrast to the earlier dram!

  • Nose – We were greeted by an inviting cognac, then clear shift into grapes, some mint and moss, lots of lovely dark berries – like black current or a blackberry jam, bit of nuts, over time it opened up further rewarding with a lightly floral perfume… after even more time, the caramel of coca cola came out too
  • Palate – Full strength, it packs a punch! From the fruity aromas, the spice initially came on strong! But then as it settled in, juicy grapes with a bit camomile and dandelion tea
  • Finish – Salty spice

And with water?

There were a few different comments – from soap to flowers to almond paste on the nose…. the real change was the palate. Early spring by the seaside.

We had a laugh at Ian’s tasting notes and quipped – less Disco & Funk, more Jazz & Blues in character.

Inchgower 11 year (2019) 52.5%

Our last brought a delicious Speyside peat to the mix.

  • Nose – Petrol and peat, sweet and salty, then also a bit peppery with a hint of licorice, increasingly caramel sweet as it opened up further
  • Palate – Shortbread biscuit, lemon zest, incredibly silky, black forrest
  • Finish – Cinnamon spice

Our peaty lady pronounced this a sweat hairy mechanic… who rises horses! And yet that was only the initial whiff… it mellowed and shifted to something infinitely more complex and subtle. This was clearly no Islay peat.

The kind of dram you would love to have in your hand to sip in a jazz club or coming back from skiing.

Remarkably, one lady was able to guess the exact distillery – long before the reveal – from her days with Diageo.

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North Star – Fettercairn 12 year 57.4%

Back in 1829, Fettercairn Distillery was one of the 1st newly licensed distillery in the Highland thanks to Sir Alexander Ramsay. It was sold within the year to the Gladstone family who carried on making whisky along with getting into politics – including William Gladstone who became Prime Minister. Whyte & Mackay acquired the distillery in 1973 with several official bottling and, no surprise, it also became a core part of their blends.

My earlier experience with Fettercairn was a 21 year old bottled by That Boutique-y Whisky Company. It impressed us with its character and complexity so I was most curious to see what this much younger one bottled by North Star would bring!

Fettercairn 12 year (Oct 2006 / Feb 2019) Refill Barrel 57.4% (North Star 007)

  • Nose – Mash-melon, herbal tea, berries and cream, sweet spice, lemon cream, apples, light and fruity
  • Palate – Spice, betal leaf, citrus, more burn than expected from the nose, cinnamon spice and tobacco leaf, almost heavy and a little bit nutty
  • Finish – There with cinnamon spice

And with water?

  • Nose – Very nice! Apple crumble, cream, drizzle of honey, toffee ice cream, apple blossoms, the berries are back – a bit tart and sweet
  • Palate – Smooth out the burn but also loses a bit of its edge and substance
  • Finish – Back to cinnamon spice

Overall it was a character! I really enjoyed what water did to the aromas and once it settled in, was also an enjoyable way to sip and savour.

What do we know about this dram? It was matured in a refill barrel, un chill filtered, and was 1 of 180 bottles from North Star’s Series 007. I ordered it online directly from the wonderful folks at North Star which made its way from the UK to Nurnberg, Germany. With shipping and tax, it came to approx GBP 74.

And what did Iain Croucher have to say about this Fettercairn? Here are his official tasting notes:

  • Nose – Black tea & gooseberries
  • Palate – Crushed bobal grapes & barley sugars
  • Finish – Hints of disco & funk

What can I say? Another hit from North Star!

What else was part of my North Star latest score?

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North Star – Royal Brackla 11 year 55.2%

I first sampled this North Star bottling of Royal Brackla in Berlin over a year ago at The Union Jack Pub. It left a positive impression of a pleasant, cheerful summery dram and I was curious to give it another go…

Royal Brackla 11 year (Oct 2006 /Feb 2018) 55.2%

  • Colour – Amber
  • Nose – Candied lemon peel, maple sugar, sweet spices, some herbs – particularly basil, give it a bit more time and apples, apricots, loads of sweet fruits, waxy and lightly perfumed
  • Palate – A bright spice, then the fruitiness carries through on the palate with substance, it is a bit oily with a slightly bitter hint that lends a bit of substance to all the orchard fruits
  • Finish – Nicely there… not long and lingering but quite pleasant

And with water? Much more approachable with the cheerful apple quality even more pronounced.

What I remember from our tasting a year ago was this whisky was sunshine and happiness, apples and apricots which carried through on the palate.

What I found most in this revisit? And when I returned a few times to sip again? Frankly I stopped even thinking about dissecting and distinguishing every element and instead just enjoyed – certainly a sign of a rather good dram – particularly in the summer!

Bottled in Feb 2018, North Star’s Single Cask Series 004, refill hogshead, one of 272 bottles. I purchased this bottle in May 2020 during our COVID ‘shut-in’ from Sansibar for EUR 49.58 plus 19% tax. In my books, this makes it affordable for an affable quality cask strength whisky.

And here are the fabulous North Star tasting notes:

  • Nose – Cooked apricots, muscovado sugar and flaked almonds
  • Palate – Strong fruit jam, pain au chocolate with bitter chocolate
  • Finish – Patisseries character, with fruits and spice

Any other Royal Brackla encounters?

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North Star Regions – Highland 11 year 50%

Glasgow based independent bottler North Star has a Millennial Series featuring whiskies from Scotland’s four main regions – Highland, Speyside, Islay and Island.

So far I’ve only managed to acquire the Highland and Speyside, together with a Royal Brackla. Whilst I was impatient to try all three, I decided to start with trying the Highland. Though the distillery is not directly stated, the longitude and latitude provided on the bottle brings one to Teaninich distillery in Alness (N 57° 41’30.35″ by W 4° 15’28.75′).

Now part of the Diageo stable, Teaninich was built in 1817 by blind Captain Hugh Munro on his estate of Teaninich Castle. After changing hands several times, by 1904 Robert Innes Cameron took charge, adding it to his interests in Benrinnes, Linkwood and Tamdhu. It was then sold to Scottish Malt Distillers and expanded in 1970 with both a new building and stills. By 1984, operations were halted then resumed in 1991 with Diageo renovating the distillery fully in 2013.

One unique feature of Teaninich distillery is use of a mash filter press rather than mash tun. Whilst more expensive, requiring more maintenance and space, this method is considered more efficient, able to process “challenging” grains like rye and results in a clear higher gravity wort which contributes to a spirit with limited cereal notes.

I will admit this was my first introduction to Teaninich – which is no surprise given it is used for blends with only a limited 10 year Flora and Fauna bottling and a 200th anniversary 17 year officially available. 

Highland 11 year 50% 

  • Colour – Light golden hay
  • Nose – Subtle, leafy, reminding me of an herbal tea, fresh apples, then shifts into a light vanilla sponge cake, a bit of milk chocolate
  • Palate – Spice, a nice earthy quality, sweet and sour – caramel and cookies side by side with a bit of tangy citrus. There is also a metallic quality – like sipping from a copper vessel
  • Finish – There but unremarkable
  • Water – Absolutely recommended, making it even more amiable and approachable – in a good way.

Overall it is an easy drinking dram – uncomplicated, fresh yet with substance – when sipped with a very generous dollop of water! I must confess I enjoy it most with almost 1/3 cold water.

What more do we know? Only that it was from a single refill sherry butt with 600 bottles produced.

Rather than tasting notes, the North Star team share the following quote from Aedan Andrejus Burt:

The first thing you need to know about the Highlands: they are vast. The Highland Line came about on whisky maps for tax reasons in 1784, when customs duties were set lower in the Highlands to encourage local farmers to register their stills. It didn’t work. But it has given us a range of incredible whiskies to drink. The Highland style is often heaver and slightly spicier than Speyside, but still sweet. Peat may feature, as some distilleries maintain older practices, but there is no one representative whisky for the Highlands. Like Scotland itself, embrace the diversity.

I miss the fabulous North Star tasting notes, however Master of Malt has this to say:

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

  • Nose: Hay, greengages, a whiff of peat swiftly enveloped by coffee-dipped pastries.
  • Palate: Orange peel, caramel and almond. Still slightly grassy at points. A flinty touch or two here and there.
  • Finish: Grist, apricot and milk chocolate.

I purchased this bottle in May 2020 during our COVID ‘shut-in’ from Sansibar for EUR 37.82 plus 19% tax. There is zero doubt this is a value for money dram!

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North Star Series 8 – Inchgower 11 year 52.5%

The minis can’t have all the fun in virtual tastings! It was time to also crack open one of the big boys! And that is exactly what happened one fine eve with the Bombay Malt &Cigar gentlemen. What did they have? It was a revisit of standard bar fare with Bowmore 12 year, Caol Ila 12 year with a Mortlach thrown in for good measure.

As for me? I let them decide… and here is what they picked!

Inchgower 11 year (July 2007 / Mar 2019) Refill Hogshead 52.5% (North Star 008)

  • Nose – It started with light peat, caramel and spice, leaves
  • Palate – First sip was bursting with lots of pepper, spice and fire… then it opened up to reveal treacle and maple syrup
  • Finish – The finish was like chomping down on a cigar with a leather chaser

Something about this one clearly called for some water… and no careful 2-3 drops but a generous dollop. What did this do? Transformed the Inchgower!

  • Nose – That caramel cola quality came through even more, sponge cake
  • Palate – Lots of cinnamon spice…. with a bit of tart kumquat
  • Finish – Retained the sweet spice

This was no easy drinking dram but one that demanded attention… a bit of an unruly beast… tamed slightly by diluting.

What else do we know? It was matured in a refill hogshead which produced 321 bottles. With shipping and tax, it came to approx GBP 60. Which frankly is quite reasonable for a  cask strength original!

As for Iain Croucher and his delightful tasting notes? Here is what he has to say:

  • Nose – Kola Cubes & pancakes with maple syrup
  • Palate – White pepper & caramel shavings
  • Finish – Tobacco (Montecristo not Marlboro)

Prior to this, my only brushes with Inchgower were 13 year olds bottled by G&MP from their Connoiseurs Choice range – one at cask strength and the other not.

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Minis – Cambus 24 year 52.7%

I will admit I had high hopes for this one – both as it is from North Star and also my last Cambus stood out as my favourite grain yet!

Cambus 24 year (May 1993/Sep 2027) 52.7% (North Star – Series 003)

  • Colour – Light gold
  • Nose – Big old dusty cupboard, fruity yet also sour, some leather reminiscent of a tannery, earthy, dry old leaves – that distinctive neem leaf in particular, sweet dry flowers… started to shift into vanilla toffee, caramel cream
  • Palate – Light yet slightly sharp, a bit piquant, sour fruits, curiously “slim”
  • Finish – Negligible
  • Water – Softens the grain on the tongue, making it milder… settled into cured leather with toffee cream, a bit of an odd combination

We set it aside for a bit and returned to find the sulfur of matchsticks with sweet cinnamon! It wasn’t bad but it didn’t exactly rock our boat.

Though we originally tasted the Cambus in February 2020, there was a bit remaining which I revisited in May. What did I find? The sour fruits were quite pronounced on the nose, however the sharpness we found earlier was gone, replaced with sweetness that became quite tasty on the palate. Not a bad way to finish the last few drops!

What do the folks at North Star have to say?

  • Nose: Cinnamon & warmed cloves
  • Palate: Buttered toffee and shortbread
  • Finish: Sweet rum & raisin

What more do we know? Only that it was bottled from a refill Pedro Ximenez sherry butt.

Here are a few others I tried from my advent calendar minis:

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North Star Spirits Series 5, Regions 5, Bottles 5

Once a year, two of our Mumbai whisky groups come together to celebrate our mutual passion for a fine dram. This time, I selected the whiskies – ordered online and brought in by another member for our sampling pleasure. I was inspired by an earlier introduction to North Star Spirits and honed in on their series 5, tending towards the more affordable options available with a nice cross-section from different regions.

While the Whisky Ladies sponsored the whiskies, the gents hosted our evening in a gorgeous South Mumbai home with a most civilized sit down tasting followed by a brilliantly paired dinner. To put it mildly, the bar was set high!

And did the whiskies deliver? Read on to discover…

Our 5 Region North Star Spirits cask strength quintet from Cask Series 005 included:

Each was distinctive, unique and completely worth trying!

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